On the evening of March 27, the Shan Shui Conservation Center hosted the Dr. George Beals Schaller lecture in the Tea-bar Youth Space. Although online registration was limited to 80 people, 150 attendees came to the talk. The lecture was so popular that the two-hour lecture had standing room only.
In 1985，Dr. George Beals Schaller successfully completed a five-year giant panda project in cooperation with Chinese experts. Researchers entered the Tibetan Plateau to conduct research on these large wild mammals. During his talking Dr. Schaller shared his collection of fantastic wildlife and nature pictures and stories gathered over the past thirty years.
When his slide show came to a picture of plateau pika, everyone was fascinated by its striking appearance. Dr. Schaller shared a sad story about the fate of this creature. Over 50 years ago, the government decided to eradicate the species because they thought the plateau pika were eating too much grass and causing wider destruction to grasslands. As of 1965, people began killing off the Plateau pika on a large scale by scattering poison across the grasslands. Unfortunately numerous other birds and animals were also killed by this method. Study after study by Chinese scientists has since shown that the plateau pika could actually bring nutrients to the topsoil, which would be advantageous to grassland growth.
Dr. Schaller discussed an interesting local custom. In the past, many local people hunted to earn their livelihood. Red fox were hunted only for children’s hats. He pointed out that this practice did not cause any issues under low population density conditions as he showed a picture of a child wearing the fox hat. But, with the exponential population growth and economic interests increasing, a series of problems arose with this practice.
“It is of great importance for the local people to sponsor spontaneous protection action said Dr. Schaller. The Shan Shui Conservation Center cooperated with local villages and the nature reserve handed over management authority to the local people, giving them responsibility for their land and environment.
There are hundreds of temples in the Ganzi prefectures, so Buddhist monk conservation activity is extraordinarily important in that region. Dr. George Beals Schaller said he would love to go to the temples as he believed Buddhism to be the most environmentally friendly religion.
After the Dr. George Beals Schaller lecture, He Bing, from Shan Shui Conservation Center gave a brief report on the investigation scheduling and founding of snow leopards in Ganzi prefecture, Sichuan province. During the one-month field investigation, Dr. Schaller always asked about climbing mountains at each stop. Although he was 83-year-old, Dr. Schaller was a most exuberant and enthusiastic leader throughout the entire project.
After the report, Dr. Schaller caught up with three old friends he had met in Wolong in the 1980s. One was the famous painter Qiu Xiaoqiu, the second was the writer Tan Kai, and the third was Deng Qitao, former director of the Qingchuan Tangjia River Nature Reserve.
The evening’s passionate, memorable, and vital exchange of ideas was a most wonderful night in Chengdu with Dr. Schaller.